LMDC Chief Wants 92YTribeca to Return $500,000 in 9/11 Grant Money

92YTribeca, at 200 Hudson St., has been a center of eclectic cultural activity and a popular place to mingle since it opened in October 2008. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Apr. 18, 2013

Many are saddened that 92YTribeca, with its vast offerings of films, talks, classes, art and music, is due to shut its doors in June, after less than five years on Hudson Street. But the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which helped make the community center possible with a federal 9/11 grant, sees the end of the Y as more than a cultural loss.

They want some money back.

"We were shocked," LMDC president David Emil said of the decision by the 92nd Street Y's board last month to close its popular center.

Speaking on Wednesday, April 17, to Community Board 1's Executive Committee, Emil said he has written a letter to the 92nd Street Y saying that if the Y doesn't intend to "fully comply with the duration of the terms" with LMDC, then a portion of the funds given to the Y should be returned.

"I said, 'Hey, we gave you government money, and you're closing, and so, we want it back.'"

In 2007, the agency provided a $1.5 million grant to the 92nd Street Y, most of which, Emil told the Trib in a telephone interview, went towards 92YTribeca's HVAC system and the purchase of audio-visual equipment. He said an LMDC analysis of invoices shows that more than $500,000 is owed to the agency.

"There is a full five years we expected the funds would be used to benefit the community and hopefully much longer," Emil said in the interview. "And to the extent that it does not we don't just want our money back, we believe we are legally entitled to get the money back and use it for other important Downtown projects."

According to the LMDC's agreement with the Y, Emil said, some portion of the money must be returned if 92YTribeca leaves before the end of five years. The Y has announced that it is likely to close the center in June, four months from its five-year anniversary. But Emil said the opening date of the center, October 2008, is not necessarily the beginning date that matters. He said the audio-visual work, for example, was begun in 2009 and completed in 2011.

Beverly Greenfield, a spokeswoman for the 92nd Street Y, declined to comment on Emil's remarks or the specifics of the Y's agreement with the LMDC. She sent the Trib this written statement: "Since 2008, 92Y Tribeca has worked to contribute to the revitalization of Lower Manhattan. Our unique cultural, educational and family life programs have been enjoyed by tens of thousands of people who live work and visit the area. When we opened it was our intention to be part of the long-term fabric of the community and we share Mr. Emil's disappointment that we will be unable to operate at 200 Hudson Street starting later this year."

Emil said he has not received a written response to his letter but discussions are taking place between his agency and the Y.

In its statement to the Trib, the Y said: "We will, of course, be working closely with LMDC with respect to our agreement over the next few months."

Since opening in fall 2008, 92YTribeca has been a popular cultural destination with its eclectic mix of programming for all ages, and with evening programming targeted mostly to a young adult crowd.

In March, Sol Adler, the 92nd Street Y's executive director, stunned the Y's Tribeca staff with a letter announcing the news.

"Over the last five years," he wrote, "we have learned that a second, physical location is not critical to our mission."

Aline Reynolds contributed reporting to this story.


Repurpose Funds from 92YTribeca to Save Dance New Amsterdam

To the Editor:

While the 92nd Street Y has thrown in the towel, DNA (Dance New Amsterdam) is battling for survival.

A unique resource in the town that calls itself "the dance capital of the world," DNA serves tens of thousands of dancers each year.  Young, old, professional, beginners—they all find a diversity of excellent teachers and beautifully appointed studios at DNA as well as a small theater that serves as a laboratory for new choreographic talent.  However, this wonderful facility that was fashioned out of decommissioned space in the historic Sun Building on Chambers Street with almost 5 million dollars of public funds, is being left out to dry despite the Herculean efforts of its staff, led by the fiercely committed Kate Peila.  

An infusion of $500,000 from LMDC would save DNA at a time when it faces eviction.  The ridiculously high rent that was negotiated long before the current leadership came on board was reduced last year, but not nearly enough to stabilize and sustain a non-profit dance organization.  I hope that everyone who reads this article and who cares about community access to the arts will band together and communicate en masse to David Emil and the LMDC Board.  We need DNA and we deserve DNA.  Please preserve DNA.

Jonathan Hollander, Artistic Director, Battery Dance and Dancing to Connect